Hot Cambodia, a social view of the Tropics

The current intention to explain why tropical countries are poorer than those countries in the temperate zone could touch a big variety of proposals, some of them of arguable position. For example, Jeffrey D. Sachs exposes that tropical regions have low agricultural productivity and the burden of tropical diseases:

“As Sachs sees it, tropical regions face two related major ecological handicaps: low agricultural productivity and a high burden of disease. Tropical soils are typically depleted by the effects of heavy rainfall, for example, and tropical crops are beset by pests and parasites that thrive in hot climates without winter frosts. Similarly, warm climates favor the transmission of many tropical diseases that are borne by insects and bacteria.” (Bloomberg, 2001)

In what it has to see with low agricultural productivity, it is not possible to prove. It is true that industrialized nations can present a higher production in agriculture, but I understand it on the fact of the mechanization of agriculture that is higher in industrialized nations than in poor ones, like Cambodia. But naturally, the tropics seem to me more productive, because they have more natural resources. This fact – the richness of natural resources – could be a reason why the tropical countries are poorer.

The idea that hot countries make people lazier is a sophism of distraction and even a racist concept. It is easy to bring this idea that in a country like Cambodia, with a constant temperature of 30 degree Celsius or 86 Fahrenheit, people are naturally lazy because the weather is too hot to be willing to do something. In fact, people of tropics tend to be slower, while less disciplined in comparison with persons of cold areas of the planet with a more strict behavior in society. But you can see a permanent movement in Cambodia and nobody could conclude in that lazy theory. The cool thinkers of this simple hypothesis [hot country = lazy people; cold country = developed] based their reasons in the fact that very low temperatures made societies to act in a more disciplined way to protect life. It is not completely wrong and it is enough to see the big challenge humanity faced during the last Ice Age, particularly in Europe and northern Asia.

But the cool thinkers forget some facts:

First, the human being is a tropical specie by nature. See Dra. Alice Roberts in her documentary The Incredible Human Journey where it is defending the thesis that we all come from tropical Africa. Second, in history, several high civilizations developed first in tropical areas. There is even more: the first great civilizations – or what we understand as such as first  – were born in tropical regions, such as Egypt, but also the Khmer Empire was located in all tropical areas of our Southeast Asia. Count on the South American civilizations like the Inca and Maya or the peoples of today Ethiopia, the Arabs and the Zulu.

My theory of poor tropic is more explained in a global hunger for natural resources coming from developing nations. We have to remember that precisely the location in cold areas increases the need for more energy, power, etc. Power is abundantly present in the tropics – just see how much fauna and flora you can find in a small country like Cambodia and compare it with the fauna and flora you can find in Sweden.

The first try to get the natural resources from the tropics by the northern peoples came during the colonial era. The European continent took over the entire planet under its rule to get the energy of the tropics, including its peoples. With the end of colonization, the hunger for energy became more demanding. The actual process of globalization is not other thing that the new way to ensure that tropical natural resources come to feed the hunger of energy of industrialized nations that based all their technologies in things such as oil. Along with colonization and globalization, corrupt administrative governments in poor countries guarantee that natural resources are transferred to developed ones.

It explains why Cambodia is becoming a target of powerful countries like China and USA. If the Cambodian agricultural production were low as Sachs suggests, why these powerful groups from the north come here to put their machines of natural resources exploitation?


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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (

One response to “Hot Cambodia, a social view of the Tropics”

  1. Anonymous says :

    Dear Father. One important aspect of this problem is just about physiology. In cold country, one just need much more energy to survive. One need more food and even more one need to plan for the winter season to store food to be able to survive. Century before, many diseases affected people in Europe as it is here. To answer to your question is simple: under the tropic you can survive in a little bamboo hut with little rice, one fish a day. In cold country life was (is) a struggle: need to work hard to produce enough food, plan to store wood for winter heater and built a appropriate shelter. So if you are poor, it will be much more easy to survive in tropical country, while risk of death in cold country was (is) very high in winter, getting disease, suffering from bloody cold weather and lack of food. It is a problem of human physiology.

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